The Art of Architecture -- Great architectural achievements always reflect a careful blending of art and science. Throughout the process these two disciplines would come together and then work toward the goal of building something special. Important architecture is the result of both the process and the product; designing and then building a structure that reflects certain considerations. Simply put, all things work in harmony to produce a three-dimensional form of art. Historically, civilizations are identified with their structures that still remain; such as, the pyramids of ancient Egypt, or the still functional aqueducts built by the early Romans.
A well thought-out building will satisfy three basic concerns: structural integrity; functionality; and of course, aesthetics, (how it will look). Our own Ahwahnee Hotel fits into a category of excellence where these architectural principles are concerned. I have selected this building because it is a world-class example, and also because it is so close to where we live. I am sure that just about everyone who lives in Mariposa County has visited this American icon at one time or another. If not, you should go there and contemplate this wonderful building. As a matter of fact, even if you have been there before it might be fun to go back and look again. Both inside and out the building is more than just interesting to ponder. You will also be happy to find that there is an added benefit of your visit; the interior serves as a museum of both art and history.
Situated in Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahnee Hotel opened for the first time in 1927; it became a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood who was also responsible for many other National Park buildings.
The Ahwahnee is considered to be a prime example of what has been called, "National Park Service Rustic Architecture." Upon close inspection you will also notice many other artistic influences that include; Art Deco, American Indian, Middle Eastern, and the Arts and Crafts movement. At total ease with the surroundings, from certain perspectives this building seems to blend right into the sheer granite cliffs behind.
Some very innovative and modern concepts were employed during the original construction of 1926-27. First of all, over a thousand tons of steel was used in both the super structure and as re-bar in the concrete. The wood "elements" on the exterior and parts of the interior are actually portrayed by cast concrete that has been colored. In the art world this technique is known as, "Trompe l'oeil", which is French for, "Trick the eye." On the outside of the building this "fake wood" approach was employed as a means of fireproofing. The simulated wood effect is harmonious with the outside surroundings. This same molded concrete process was also used on the interior, but this time it was done to meet structural integrity standards. Take a careful look in the main dining room at the massive log trusses above, they are really made of reinforced concrete. Not all is false though -- some 6,000 tons of cut granite and 32,000 board feet of lumber were also used in the construction.